Willow and Oz stayed with SG-1 for quite some time after breakfast, before moving on to visit Xander, and if they were really unlucky, Anya too. Oz, though, was being even more monosyllabic than usual, not volunteering anything at all. Willow hoped that it was only because he didn't know SG-1 like she did, or that he was adjusting to being back in Sunnydale or something like that. She hoped it wasn't anything more serious.
However, whilst Xander acted like a delighted host (as much as it's possible to do in his parent's basement) and Anya, unsurprisingly, seemed extremely put out at having anyone interrupting her time private time with Xander, Oz was still despondent, only speaking when asked a direct question, and even then only the bare minimum. Seeing as how Anya was sulking, Xander and Willow found themselves having to carry the conversation by themselves. Understandably, it soon petered out.
So Willow and Oz head over to Buffy's dorm, hoping that she'll be there (Willow's fairly certain she doesn't have a class right now, but who knows with Buffy?) and Willow just slightly loses her temper at Oz's behavior. She knows she shouldn't, that she's being unreasonable, but Willow just can't help herself. "I know you're normally all laid-back and quiet, but why are you being so... passive?" she snaps.
Oz doesn't answer for a minute, and Willow begins to think that he isn't going to. Then he says "I traveled across several continents trying to find a cure. I wanted to give up so many times, but I didn't. Because I wanted to come back here. To you. But never did it occur to me that you might move on, that you might've changed. So I come back and it's like there isn't a me-shaped hole, you know?"
"Ah, Oz. I didn't move on, not for a while, until I nearly got killed - well, nearly got killed in a non-vampirey way - and I found other friends. And a big part of the reason I went away with them is because they wouldn't always remind me of you. But now, I'm back, and you're back, and I honestly don't know what to do. I don't know whether to stay or to go. I'm conflicted." Willow found herself saying, spilling far more than she had intended to.
Oz smiles his laconic smile. He feels - not better about things, he can't feel truly better until Willow makes a choice - but more settled, more assured of his place here. Despite the fact that that man Daniel had smelt heavily of what he had to fight not to call "My Willow." He said "It's alright, I understand." But Oz didn't add "But I don't have to like it.
By that time, they had reached Buffy's room, but upon knocking on the door and getting no answer, decided that is might be a good time to visit Giles. Willow thought they could safely give Spike a miss, given that, as far as Oz was concerned, he was still evil. Or eviler than he is at present, perhaps. Willow wondered where Buffy had gotten too.
Where Buffy had gotten to was somewhere spectacular. She had seen many impressive things - well, to an average person the vampires she killed every night would be incredibly impressive - but this underground facility that housed the Initiative was in a class all by itself. "You said it was big. In all fairness you did. But you didn't say it was huge
!" she exclaimed to Riley, as he escorted her to see Professor Walsh. And to think that Walsh, her Psychology professor of all things, was running
Riley chuckled as he watched Buffy's awed expression as she tried to take in everything - the bustling people in lab coats, that large operating theatre in which a large green demon (was alive or dead?) was strapped into a chair, the vast room - and then checked himself when he realised he was staring. Riley had been doing that a fair amount recently. "C'mon Buffy, the Professor is down there." he gestured to the solitary figure standing sentinel, watching all the proceedings like a hawk.
Buffy gulped at the thought that her scariest teacher by far had command of so much military power. It was a good thing Walsh had never wanted to chase her on the numerous assignments numerous apocalypses had interrupted. However, she quashed the mild uncomfortableness she felt over approaching Walsh in this circumstance and concentrated only on her excitement.
Walsh spun around as she heard people approaching her - although how she could tell anyone apart from the general cacophony of footsteps without preternatural hearing, Buffy didn't know - and her face lit up as she saw Riley. "Agent Finn!" then Walsh caught sight of Buffy, and it was like a shutter dropped, instantly concealing all emotions. "And Buffy Summers. You'd better have a good reason for being here." she said, coldly.
"Have you ever heard of something called a Slayer, ma'am?" Riley asked deferentially. Buffy hoped she would never have to speak to Walsh - to anyone - in that tone.
"Yes, of course. It's something the sub-terrestrials use to frighten each other with. It's just a myth." Walsh said, wondering where this conversation was going.
Riley glanced at Buffy, and Walsh was intrigued to see that Riley only continued when Buffy gave him an infinitesimally small nod. Walsh was annoyed too, of course. Riley was hers.
"Buffy is the Slayer." he said, trying to keep the doubt out of his voice. He just found it difficult to believe, even though he had seen her fighting off (more capably than he, he forced himself to add) those creepy floating demons.
Apparently, Walsh found it just as hard to believe. She examined the tiny blonde closely, until Buffy found here,ef trying not to blush. "Really?" Walsh said, unlike Riley making no pretence of hiding her incredulity.
Buffy found herself indignant. "Yes, I am. And I'll prove it, if you want." she said pugnaciously.
Walsh raised an eyebrow. "That's something I'd like to see. Agent Finn, assemble a group of say, five soldiers in the training room." she ordered, staring at Buffy as though daring her to back down.
Buffy didn't. "Of course I'll agree to such a demonstration, Professor. Just as soon as someone shows me to the training room, of course." she said sarcastically.
Walsh fought down her anger. A Slayer, if Buffy really was one, could be a valuable ally. If only she weren't, well, Buffy. Or so close to Riley, for that matter.
Buffy hit one of the soldiers so hard that his feet left the ground, sending him cannoning into another soldier and bringing them both down into a heap of tangled limbs. Buffy looked around for the next person to fight, but realised they she had already downed them all. How unsatisying.
Walsh blinked as the spectacle was all too quickly over. If she hadn't known better, she might have suspected that Buffy was a vampire, she moved that quickly. She had to be a Slayer. Well, they could certainly use one. And, as she thought about what lay behind door 314, for more than just demon hunting. "Well, that was certainly interesting to watch." she understated, playing it cool "I'm sure we can certainly use you for training our soldiers to be more effective."
"Actually, I was hoping to do something more demon hunter-y. You know, play to my strengths." said Buffy hopefully."Got her!"
thought Walsh triumphantly. "Well, there is something you should know. A few hours ago, a colleague of hours was injured apprehending a hostile sub-terrestrial - a demon, to you - that is capable of possession. The HST escaped, and we believe that I may be in the body of your friend, Willow Rosenberg." she said, passing along the information that Maybourne had given her, before they'd found him unconscious in a car wrapped around a lamppost. She didn't mention that it was an alien, not an HST, that was in control of Willow. Buffy didn't need to know that.
Buffy's eyes narrowed as she wondered both what Walsh knew and what to tell her. She settled for the truth - she didn't want Willow getting mistakenly shot. So she told Walsh that the "demon" had jumped to another man, Ethan Rayne. Of course, Buffy left out some details - and she knew Walsh noticed - but it should be enough to keep them away from Willow.
"I'm most impressed." said Walsh, her tone belying her words. "Come with me." she ordered imperiously, turning and leaving without looking to see whether Buffy was following. Buffy looked over at Riley, who despite being rather shocked at Buffy's fighting prowess gave her a reassuring smile. They both left in pursuit of Walsh.
A few minutes later (Buffy vaguely wondered if this underground complex went all the way beneath Sunnydale) Walsh turned into a gadget-filled room - well, she went into one. She didn't transform into a gadget filled room, that would be absurd - and quickly found what she was looking for. She handed Buffy a pager.
"Cool, I've always wanted one of these." said Buffy irreverently, turning the device over and over in her hands.
"It only has our number on it, and it stays that way. We will use it should we want to contact you. Now I hope you enjoy your day." Walsh said, the dismissal clear. She watched as Buffy and Riley left together, no doubt planning to do exactly that. Walsh wondered whether a Slayer would be more use to the Project dead or alive. I know I already mentioned what happened to Maybourne after Ethan escaped, but I'm invoking my authorial license to say it again. And I know that the last couple of chapters haven't exactly been action filled, but we're getting there, just you wait.